SEX, LIES AND HAR­VEY

The Sunday Times - - NEWS - MARY HUI

THE pro­fes­sional tra­jec­tory of Har­vey We­in­stein, the famed and feared Hol­ly­wood mogul, has been as volatile as his per­son­al­ity. One of Hol­ly­wood’s most pow­er­ful pro­duc­ers, We­in­stein co-founded Mi­ra­max Films, turn­ing the stu­dio into a be­he­moth that changed the way in­de­pen­dent films were viewed.

His name has been at­tached to some of the most fa­mous movies from the past few decades, and he has re­mained a force in a film in­dus­try that has changed sub­stan­tially since he be­gan his ca­reer in the 1970s.

Along the way, he helped pro­pel the ca­reers of peo­ple such as Quentin Tarantino and Steven Soder­bergh and won the ad­mi­ra­tion of count­less crit­ics and oth­ers.

But his rep­u­ta­tion for abra­sive­ness and his le­gendary tem­per have earned him more than a few en­e­mies along the way, mak­ing We­in­stein the fre­quent tar­get of award-cer­e­mony jokes and pointed anec­dotes.

Matt Damon once com­pared him to a scor­pion. There has been bad blood, too, with a for­mer pro­tege, Kevin Smith.

The com­pli­cated re­la­tion­ship We­in­stein has with the in­dus­try was per­haps best summed up by a speech Meryl Streep gave at the Golden Globes one year.

“I want to thank God — Har­vey We­in­stein,” she joked. “The pu­n­isher. Old Tes­ta­ment, I guess.”

But a block­buster story pub­lished by the New York Times this week rep­re­sents per­haps the most se­vere blow to his ca­reer.

The story aired decades of pre­vi­ously un­known sex­ual ha­rass­ment ac­cu­sa­tions against We­in­stein, who now says he plans to take a leave of ab­sence.

Here is a time­line of his ups and downs over the years.

The glory years

In 1979, We­in­stein and his brother, Bob, co-founded Mi­ra­max, which would help bring art-house cin­ema into the main­stream.

The stu­dio broke through in the late 1980s with a trio of hits: Soder­bergh’s Sex, Lies, and Video­tape, Jim Sheri­dan’s My Left Foot, which won Daniel Day-Lewis an Os­car, and Giuseppe Tor­na­tore’s Cin­ema Par­adiso, which won the Os­car for best for­eign-lan­guage film.

Dis­ney bought the stu­dio in 1993 for be­tween $60 mil­lion and $80 mil­lion, giv­ing it an in­fu­sion of cash and the back­ing of a ma­jor com­pany. Mi­ra­max con­tin­ued its suc­cess, fi­nanc­ing Tarantino’s 1994 hit Pulp Fic­tion, which went on to be one of the most in­flu­en­tial films of the decade.

The film, which was made for $8.5 mil­lion, grossed more than $200 mil­lion around the world.

For an 11-year pe­riod from 1992 to 2003, Mi­ra­max Films had at least one of its films nom­i­nated for an Os­car each year, win­ning best pic­ture for sev­eral of them, in­clud­ing The English Pa­tient (1996), Shake­speare in Love (1998) and Chicago (2002).

Other ac­claimed films that came out of Mi­ra­max in­cluded Good Will Hunt­ing (1997) and The Cider House Rules (1999).

And hits such as Scream (1996) and Jackie Brown (1997) kept the money flow­ing.

Mi­ra­max was known for purs­ing “Os­cars with a drive — and a bud­get — pre­vi­ously un­known in the in­dus­try,” plac­ing more ad­ver­tise­ments, lob­by­ing more vot­ers, dis­miss­ing more ri­vals and send­ing out more free­bies than other stu­dios, the Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported in 2008. But the We­in­stein broth­ers be­came known for a ruth­less way of do­ing busi­ness.

“Mi­ra­max ran on fear. They’re in­tim­i­dat­ing, they shout a lot, they foam at the mouth,” Stu­art Burkin, who started at the com­pany in 1991, told Vanity Fair.

Even as he was dom­i­nat­ing Hol­ly­wood, ac­cord­ing to the Times, Har­vey We­in­stein was ac­cused of se­rial sex­ual ha­rass­ment.

Ac­tor Ash­ley Judd said that while she was shoot­ing the 1997 film Kiss the Girls, he lured her to his ho­tel room for a “meet­ing”, try­ing to force her to give him a mas­sage or watch him shower.

“How do I get out of the room as fast as pos­si­ble with­out alien­at­ing Har­vey We­in­stein,” she re­called in an in­ter­view with the New York Times.

Through­out the 1990s, the New York Times re­ported, We­in­stein set­tled with nu­mer­ous women, in­clud­ing a young as­sis­tant in New York in 1990, ac­tor Rose McGowan in 1997 and an as­sis­tant in Lon­don in 1998.

The painful years

Things took a down­turn pro­fes­sion­ally for We­in­stein in the 2000s.

Dis­ney parted ways with the We­in­steins in 2005 af­ter ar­gu­ments over the stu­dio’s bal­loon­ing movie bud­gets and dis­agree­ments over the de­gree of their au­ton­omy. Har­vey and Bob started a new in­de­pen­dent stu­dio, the We­in­stein Co, that same year.

But Har­vey seemed to have lost some of his touch. Be­tween 2005 and 2009, the We­in­stein Co re­leased some 70 films, many of which no­body wanted to watch.

Flops in­cluded the 2005 film De­railed, fea­tur­ing ac­tors Clive Owen and Jennifer Anis­ton, which crit­ics de­rided as “a glossy and of­ten ris­i­ble bit of trash”, and “laugh­able”.

Ac­cord­ing to a 2009 New York Times pro­file of the broth­ers, more than a quar­ter the films in that four-year stretch fell short of the $1 mil­lion box-of­fice mark in the US.

Of those, 13 took in less than $100,000.

“I think I took my eye off the ball,” Har­vey We­in­stein told Vanity Fair in 2011.

“From about 2005, 2006, 2007, I was out of it. I thought I could over­see movies and have it done for me, so to speak.”

Dur­ing that pe­riod, We­in­stein also branched out into other fields, buy­ing part of the Hal­ston fash­ion brand, part of the cable net­work Ova­tion, and the so­cial net­work­ing site A Small World.

The come­back

The year 2011 marked Har­vey We­in­stein’s pro­fes­sional resur­gence.

The King’s Speech, star­ring Colin Firth, was nom­i­nated for 12 Os­cars, tak­ing home the best-pic­ture tro­phy.

Crit­ics piled on praise, call­ing We­in­stein the “come­back kid”.

“Look, there are four, five busi­nesses we never should have been in and we ended up hum­bled and learnt from that ex­pe­ri­ence,” We­in­stein told the Times in 2011.

“We are con­cen­trat­ing on movies, pulling the band back to­gether, and I think the com­ing year could be as good or bet­ter than any we ever had at Mi­ra­max.”

The next year, We­in­stein cleaned up at the Golden Globes for The Iron Lady, My Week with Marilyn and The Artist, which would win best pic­ture at the Os­cars.

Streep paid him homage dur­ing that Globes cer­e­mony with her “God” quote.

As Gawker.com put it, We­in­stein had “risen from the grave to feast on the bones of his en­e­mies”.

That year, he was named one of Time mag­a­zine’s 100 most in­flu­en­tial peo­ple in the world.

The fall

In its in­ves­tiga­tive re­port about sex­ual ha­rass­ment al­le­ga­tions against We­in­stein, the Times re­ported that he had reached at least eight set­tle­ments with women over the years.

In a state­ment to the Times, We­in­stein said: “I ap­pre­ci­ate the way I’ve be­haved with col­leagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sin­cerely apol­o­gise for it. Though I’m try­ing to do bet­ter, I know I have a long way to go. That is my com­mit­ment. My jour­ney now will be to learn about my­self and con­quer my demons.”

As the Post’s Stephanie Merry put it, We­in­stein’s state­ment to the Times, “is a mix of re­morse, rap lyrics, and an at­tempt to dis­tract from his in­dis­cre­tions by bring­ing up his fury at the NRA. Most im­por­tantly, it doesn’t con­tra­dict the al­le­ga­tions”.

One of his lawyers, Charles Harder, told the Hol­ly­wood Re­porter that We­in­stein planned to sue the news­pa­per, charg­ing that the story “re­lies on mostly hearsay ac­counts and a faulty re­port”.

An­other lawyer who is ad­vis­ing We­in­stein said that “he de­nies many of the ac­cu­sa­tions as patently false”, ac­cord­ing to the Times.

We­in­stein is on “in­def­i­nite leave of ab­sence” from the We­in­stein Co while an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion is con­ducted on the al­le­ga­tions, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from the com­pany’s board of rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Close: Singer Tay­lor Swift, mu­si­cian Este Haim, ac­tor Jaime King, Har­vey We­in­stein and singer Lorde. Pic­ture: Getty Im­ages

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